More Questionable Activity From Patent Attorneys Wielding Patents

from the this-is-a-problem dept

Joe Mullin has been covering the story of how patent attorneys have been jumping into abusing the patent system with a fervor over the past few years -- either getting patents themselves on trivial concepts or buying up patents and aggressively suing over them. The classic case of this involved Scott Harris, who not only got a bunch of patents himself, but those patents were then used in lawsuits against clients of his own law firm, Fish & Richardson. Think about that for a second. Harris lost his job, but it appears that as long as you do the same thing while not still working for F&R, perhaps it's ok. Mullin has the story of a former F&R lawyer, who bought up a bunch of patents and has been suing a ton of big name companies. In some of the cases, he's been using Fish as his lawyers. In others, he's been suing Fish clients (though, not using Fish as his lawyers in those cases). Basically, this all just becomes a huge tax on innovation. A bunch of lawyers get extra wealthy while companies that are actually innovating are forced to fork over millions of dollars to the lawyers who think they're playing a game. I recently had a dinner with a young patent attorney who said the system is sickening from the inside (he's looking to get out of the patent business). You see these top patent lawyers who are making millions by abusing the system, and they absolutely love the fact that they're abusing the system. It makes them rich that they find the whole thing to be a joke. They don't care that it's harming companies and American innovation, just so long as they can buy expensive cars and houses.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2009 @ 10:24pm

    "You see these top patent lawyers who are making millions by abusing the system, and they absolutely love the fact that they're abusing the system. It makes them rich that they find the whole thing to be a joke. They don't care that it's harming companies and American innovation, just so long as they can buy expensive cars and houses."

    You paint what I view as a broad generalization that bears virtually no resemblance to the vast, vast majority of patent practitioners. Moreover, I could not disagree more with your using the word "top" to describe these miscreants. I would use the word in association with many colleagues who like me view the actions of these very few with utter disdain.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2009 @ 11:01pm

    What would happen if our entire patent system disappeared? Would companies go out of business? Frankly I think not. While I disagree with Mike on his copyright stance, I don't see any downside to eliminating completely our patent system.

     

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  3.  
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    Big Al, Jul 22nd, 2009 @ 11:14pm

    Re:

    What would happen if our entire copyright system disappeared? Would people stop creating? Frankly I think not...

     

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  4.  
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    Fred McTaker (profile), Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 12:04am

    Attorney principles=money

    More Questionable Activity From X Attorneys Wielding X

    X could be any form of protectionism, government approved or otherwise. The obvious point is that attorneys tend to specialize, and are paid for their specialty. Whoever has the most money to pay attorney for X gets the most attorney time. In addition to tort reform (frivolous filers should pay back the tax dollars they use up in the court system, for example), the protection racket the attorneys work within requires either reform or abolition. In the case of copyright and patent protection rackets, I vote for abolition.

     

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  5.  
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    Joseph, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 12:50am

    American Patant lawyers

    It is not just the Americans that are loosing out, clearly the patent system has become a joke. The only ones who win are the ones with the best lawyers and the rich, small inovators and free open software are being destroyed. Patents on Software and ideas should have a short shelf life, then everyones propperty. Also the most ridiculous things get patents, I am expecting any time soon for someone to patent my hair style, my DNA, my voice, my soul!! The whole thing need an overhaul, pdq.
    But apart from that...may today be a good day for you.
    Joseph

     

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  6.  
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    Grady (profile), Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 3:40am

    Re: AC1

    It all depends on his definition of "Top". Is "top" the best (most skilled)? Or is it the most popular? It could also mean highest paid. In this instance, I'd agree with his use of "top" because I believe he is referring to the most popular (to those outside the practice) and the highest paid (due to their abuse of the system). Otherwise I'd agree, I wouldn't consider them the top patent lawyers.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 4:36am

    There are abuses in any system. Damning the system for the small number of abuses is pretty pointless.

    Mike, how many patents are there? How many lawsuits? What is the percentage of patents used in this manner? How big of a problem is this?

     

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  8.  
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    ..., Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 5:13am

    Re:

    You really should pay more attention

     

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  9.  
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    NullOp, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 5:41am

    No worries

    Life has a way of taking care of those that make a living by abusing others...

     

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  10.  
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    monkyyy (profile), Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 5:43am

    "There are abuses in any system. Damning the system for the small number of abuses is pretty pointless."

    small? pointless?
    if some one kills a "small" number of people would it be a waste of time to fix the problame?

    those "pointless" abuses cost milloins of dollors and slow inovasoin

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 5:44am

    Re:

    What you would see is that multi-year development activities would decline because the ROI would eventually go negative. So, taking years to develop certain new technologies would slow because the cost of investment would either be impossible to recover or would never be recovered. The industries most affected would likely be pharmaceuticals, chemicals and mechanical products, as has been documented by a number of researchers. Software would be virtually completely unaffected. Electronics might see some minor effect.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 5:48am

    Re:

    There are around 1.75 million U.S. patents in force. There are roughly 2700 patent lawsuits initiated each year. Though some of these suits involve multiple patents, if only one patent per suit was involved then 0.0015% of patents is litigated per year. I doubt we have any system that is abused as little as 0.0015%, though many of those cases are legitimate, where fairly blatant copying has occurred (though is not alleged, because copying is more difficult to prove than infringement, and as an experienced litigator has told me, why allege something that you need not allege?).

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 5:53am

    Re:

    lol...Under your argument, we should eliminate all medical care because it has been well documented that about 40,000 people per year die in the U.S. because of medical mistakes and errors. Calculate the loss of life due to medical care and compare that to the intellectual property system. Based on your comment, complete elimination of medical care would eliminate the mistakes, thus permitting people to live longer.

    However, what you FAILED to consider is that the mistakes, while fatal for the estimated 40,000 people, have HELPED MILLIONS of people. Patents are not any different. A very small percentage of patents, less than 0.5%, may have led to a small, apparently immeasurable slowing in innovation, but the other 99.5% seem to be doing what they do best, revealing information to the world and providing incentive for more innovation.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 6:46am

    I'm glad to see that someone is anonymously post spamming. The three posts above this are by the same person, who acts as a shill for the patent trolls. What their information fails to point out is that many patent cases don't get filed as they are settled outside of court. The real number of people affected by patent lawyers is actually more likely to be far higher as litigation usually costs more than the "settlements". Also the example you gave of medical treatment is apples to banjos. There are far more medical issues than 1.75 million, most of which go unreported so that the mistakes probably end up being far less of a percentage than your misleading data all of which is unsubstantiated. Patent lawsuits in America are a joke. Much of the legal system in America is a joke. There is no equality for the poor as the law system is predicated on who can afford the best defense. In a system where using a laser light to entertain a cat can be patented and people can be sued into debt for using a legal image.

     

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  15.  
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    Play the stat game elsewhere, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 6:57am

    The US population in 1997 was estimated at 272,911,760. According to FBI records there wer 18000 murders that year or 0.0066%. Using your logic, we should not pursue prosecution in these cases because it comprises a very small percentage of the population.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 7:21am

    Re:

    I do not see how that follows. First, I doubt that very many of the patent suits filed each year are "abusive." Secondly, I am not in favor of eliminating laws relating to murder because a small percentage of people abuse them any more than I am in favor of eliminating patent laws because a small number of people abuse them. What I am in favor of is assuring that the law does its best to eliminate the abuse.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 7:38am

    Re:

    What their information fails to point out is that many patent cases don't get filed as they are settled outside of court.

    That would be an interesting statistic to see.

    The real number of people affected by patent lawyers is actually more likely to be far higher as litigation usually costs more than the "settlements".

    I am unsure of what you are trying to say. Can you articulate that better? Do you have examples? Statistics?

    There are far more medical issues than 1.75 million, most of which go unreported so that the mistakes probably end up being far less of a percentage than your misleading data all of which is unsubstantiated.

    There are many sources for my "unsubstantiated" data. I give you one web site that provides a nice summary of deaths due to medical errors...

    http://www.wrongdiagnosis.com/mistakes/common.htm

    Patent lawsuits in America are a joke. Much of the legal system in America is a joke.

    This argument is so well supported.

    There is no equality for the poor as the law system is predicated on who can afford the best defense.

    A sweeping generalization is always a good substitute for reasoned logic and facts.

    In a system where using a laser light to entertain a cat can be patented and people can be sued into debt for using a legal image.

    The patent is expired. However, who would you have asserted it against? It is clearly not something worth in money. Further, the thing would never have stood up in court, because cats inherently follow the light from lasers, as well as from flashlights, and other sources of light. It was a funny, stupid patent, that made no economic sense whatsoever.

    People cannot be "sued into debt" for using a legal image, unless they challenge the ruling that the image is legal. I would enjoy seeing the article about the person sued into debt for using a legal image.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 7:38am

    Re:

    I see that spammers come in varieties...

     

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  19.  
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    AC, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 7:45am

    Re:

    I agree, although you can't just fixate on the poor as the victims of our patent system; I doubt the bona fide "poor" are really involved in that many patent disputes, but extortionate legal fees are huge hits against entrepreneurs and small business owners, and they definitely add up against larger companies.

    Legal fees are a complete and total waste of resources; you might as well flush the money down the toilet or use it to start a bonfire for all the good it does society. Over-legislating and over-litigating creates huge inefficiencies in the economy, which is exactly the thing we should be trying to avoid. Ideally, all lawyers would be out of a job. Obviously this isn't possible, but I've noticed that even most lawyers that aren't particularly abusive have become conditioned to value their colleagues' importance and necessity as far higher than it needs to be, as if all disputes require legal intervention.

    It's the same mindset found in supporters of strict IP laws in general; they believe that production, innovation, and profit will not occur if everything is not covered by a 70-year copyright. And the same mindset found in supporters of government spending and intervention, who seem incapable of believing that anything will happen without the government. If people cannot see the explicit process by which a process will occur, they seem to assume it won't happen. For change to occur, we need to get into the general mindset that it's okay to have the bare essentials with regards to government, IP, litigation, etc. People will adapt, and life will go on.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    AC, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 8:08am

    Re: Re:

    What their information fails to point out is that many patent cases don't get filed as they are settled outside of court.

    That would be an interesting statistic to see.

    Because you only care about measurable data, right? I don't know how many patent cases are settled out of court prior to filing, but I see threats of litigation influence business all the time. I can't tell you how many times I've read about a false DMCA takedown request unfortunately working, or a large company settling a lawsuit for millions just because it is cheaper and easier than going through the courts. The unquantified effects of overbearing litigation are far larger than the quantified.

    The real number of people affected by patent lawyers is actually more likely to be far higher as litigation usually costs more than the "settlements".

    I am unsure of what you are trying to say. Can you articulate that better? Do you have examples? Statistics?

    I think it is blatantly obvious that he's referring to the huge cost of paying lawyers and fighting in court, which is a monetary vacuum. Do you need statistics to see that it costs a lot of money in legal fees to fight lawsuits?

    There is no equality for the poor as the law system is predicated on who can afford the best defense.

    A sweeping generalization is always a good substitute for reasoned logic and facts.

    Are you disputing that affording the best defense will lead to more favorable outcomes? So I can walk into court against Microsoft without wasting money on expensive lawyers and actually get an injunction and payment from them if I have a valid patent dispute?

    In a system where using a laser light to entertain a cat can be patented and people can be sued into debt for using a legal image.

    The patent is expired. However, who would you have asserted it against? It is clearly not something worth in money. Further, the thing would never have stood up in court, because cats inherently follow the light from lasers, as well as from flashlights, and other sources of light. It was a funny, stupid patent, that made no economic sense whatsoever.

    Right, it's never the legal system's fault, because who cares that you might have to spend thousands fighting this patent in court? At least you'd win in the end, right?

    People cannot be "sued into debt" for using a legal image, unless they challenge the ruling that the image is legal. I would enjoy seeing the article about the person sued into debt for using a legal image.

    So can just keep using the image then? Even if you are clearly protected under the law, you have to waste huge amounts of money retaining lawyers to utilize it.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 8:34am

    Re: Re: Re:

    It is amazing how many answers were provided without really answering or illuminating anything.

     

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  22.  
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    angry dude, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 9:27am

    F#$%^&* techdirt retards

    What's wrong with you, punks ?

     

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  23.  
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    dorp, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 9:49am

    Re: Re:

    A sweeping generalization is always a good substitute for reasoned logic and facts.

    Says a guy that provided nothing of that sort himself, while continuing to be an AC.

     

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  24.  
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    angry dude, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 9:52am

    Re: F#$%^&* techdirt retards

    My impotent anger is rising again. Can anyone point me to a dictionary of swear words? I need to start using more than five that I already do to make it seem like I am making an actual argument, not the usual acid spitting.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 10:49am

    Re: Re:

    A whole lot of these abuses don't involve actually filing a lawsuit. You aren't counting the "send us money, or we'll sue" thuggery.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 11:18am

    Re:

    I don't see any dead bodies, that is an obvious exaggeration.

    Quite simply, if there are 10 million patents, and a dozen lawsuits a year, overall, the system is more effective than most everything else on the planet.

    Heck, you have higher packet loss on your internet connection. Perhaps you should disconnect to avoid disappointment.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 12:21pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Okay...count them...how many are there? How much money is actually involved? Further, how much copying is involved?

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 12:23pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Oh, I think there was information provided in posts earlier that got lost in the hyperbole. We can continue with hyperbole all day long, kind of like we did when we were children. However, you would think we have learned by now that facts and weighing interests is better than "nuh uh," "uh huh," ad infinitum.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 12:27pm

    Re: Re:

    Furthermore, you should stop buying houses, cars, computers and television sets, all of which have higher failure rates. Even considering the so-called "thuggery," which is kind of like the exaggerations that accompany the "save the children" articles we often see, the total number of patents and companies involved is fractions of a percent - small be any definition. The so-called patent crisis is more akin to the sky is falling as opposed to sighting of an actual meteor.

     

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  30.  
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    staff1, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 2:00pm

    stop the shilling!!!

    "A bunch of lawyers get extra wealthy while companies that are actually innovating..."

    Figure it out. If others own the patents that means your pals are not the ones innovating. All they are doing is "borrowing" others inventions.

    Patent reform is a fraud on America...
    Please see http://truereform.piausa.org/ for a different/opposing view on patent reform.

     

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  31.  
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    Ryan, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 2:11pm

    Re: stop the shilling!!!

    You clearly are completely ignorant of the current state of patent allocation. Even defenders of the system or a moron in a hurry would not make the fallacy that possession of a patent is the equivalent of invention/innovation.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Ryan, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 2:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The coward from before(you?) that was defending the patent system provided essentially nothing of significant academic value beyond continually disparaging others' perceived lack of context, while failing entirely to answer a number the points that were there. This is one of my pet peeves; posters that criticize others for lack of factual information when in fact some good points are made, and then refusing to answer those points. I call this particular kind of poster the Pompous Dumbass.

     

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  33.  
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    Fred McTaker (profile), Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 3:24pm

    True Reform?

    "Please see http://truereform.piausa.org/ for a different/opposing view on patent reform."

    Try "inventing" a web site with a background that doesn't totally interfere with the text, so humans can actually read it. At least I could see the blue text links, which all seem to point to other internal rants, rather than any external or impartial sources. The only view I see on that site is that everyone who disagrees with your viewpoint is wrong. I see no difference there from any other AC poster here -- you didn't have to register any new domains to accomplish that at all.

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 4:53pm

    Scott Harris

    What your articles never seem to understand is that Scott Harris worked on his personal patents for years as a hobby:he never intended to sue F&R clients. The genius management at F&R ordered him to "get rid" of them in days not weeks. It was their lack of foresight that precipited the entire melee that occurred. Most patent attorneys have scienific/technical backgrounds why should they be prohibited from patenting their own ideas?

     

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  35.  
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    CleverName, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 6:40pm

    Re: Re:

    Not that I believe any of your drivel, but I do find it worth noting that even an industry pundit admits software patents are bullshit.

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 6:43pm

    Re: Attorney principles=money

    "Whoever has the most money to pay attorney for X gets the most attorney time"

    I guess these attorneys are paying themselves ?

     

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  37.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 11:04pm

    Re: Re:

    There are around 1.75 million U.S. patents in force. There are roughly 2700 patent lawsuits initiated each year.

    Um, lawsuits are a *tiny* part of the problem. You are ignoring licensing demands that never go to court, you are ignoring chilling effects.

    If you think litigation is the only issue you clearly haven't worked at a tech company.

    though is not alleged, because copying is more difficult to prove than infringement, and as an experienced litigator has told me, why allege something that you need not allege?

    That's wrong. You actually have a much stronger case, especially for willful infringement, if you can show it was copied. If it was copied, you have a tremendous incentive to claim it and to prove it. Acting otherwise is simply wrong.

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2009 @ 5:24am

    Re: stop the shilling!!!

    stop the spamming !!!

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    I find that hard to believe, Jul 24th, 2009 @ 5:25am

    Re: Scott Harris

    "Most patent attorneys have scienific/technical backgrounds "

    citation ?

     

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